The Sheffield and District Orchid Society was founded in January 1972 by three amateur growers who had come to know one another on occasional visits to Mansell and Hatcher’s nursery in Leeds. They were Harry Baldwin, (after whom the well-known odont hybrid was subsequently named), David Danks and Basil Nicholson. They were soon joined by Dr. Jim Binks and his brother, David and at the December meeting that year there were forty two members assembled to hear a talk given by Brian Rittershausen. Membership reached a peak of about one hundred and twenty at the end of the decade but dropped back to about eighty when the OPEC Consortium raised the cost of heating fuel. It remained at about that figure for a long time but recently has fallen to about forty.
In 1975, Andrew, 11th Duke of Devonshire, agreed to become Patron of the Society and by 1980 the Society’s annual show was being held in the Cavendish Institute in Edensor Village on the Chatsworth estate. Each of these shows was formally opened by His Grace, who did not miss a single one of these brief but delightful ceremonies over more than twenty five years. Since his death in 2004, his successor, the 12th Duke, has kindly continued the tradition. The Estate itself has exhibited at our shows from time to time and regularly loans foliage plants for a back-drop to our displays. From 2021 we have been staging our annual show in Sheffield instead.
The late Dr. Jim Binks was the first of our members to become nationally known among orchid growers, being especially noted for his expertise in growing paphiopedilums. He made many crosses in the genus and his regular visits to Ratcliffe’s were always made with his checklist of hybrids currently in flask, immediately to hand. After Jim’s death in 1991, one of his own hybrids, P haynaldianum x P hirsutissimum, was registered for him by David as Paph Jim Binks. Several of his plants were awarded AM/RHS, he won a number of CCC/RHS certificates and he was particularly pleased with the award of a Lindley Medal for a display of five P rothschildianum in 1983, when even a single roths was a rare sighting. He was Chairman of the Society for many years, and he was one of the founding fathers of the British Paphiopedilum Society in 1990.
Jim’s brother David was well known for his skill with Miltonias. He collaborated with Jim in hybridising in Paphs and Odonts but Miltonia Nancy Binks (Milt Gascogne x Cindy Kane) and Vuylstekeara Memoria Sydney Binks (Milt Gascogne x Oda Flocalo) were perhaps his most successful crosses. Different clones of each of these were exhibited by David at shows across the country and often won rosettes. Incidentally, Sydney Binks played football for Bishop Auckland before moving to Sheffield and Jim’s widow, Julie, occasionally wears her father-in-law’s Amateur Cup Final medal as a pendant.
Dr. Cedric and Mrs. Silvia Maunder joined the Society soon after its founding and became our best-known members. Cedric died in 2012, and Silvia in 2021; he was Chairman of the British Orchid Council, then a Vice-President, and he and Silvia were for many years organisers and
administrators of the BOC Judging Training Scheme. Both of them were members of the RHS Orchid Committee and both are commemorated in individual orchid hybrids and in the multi-generic hybrid, Maunderara (Miltada x Wilsonara) registered by George Black in 1995. Both Cedric and Silvia were Advisors to the Eric Young Orchid Foundation.
Nev and Ruth Brown were also familiar faces in the orchid world and it is through them that our Society was able to capitalise on its connection with German orchid growers in the Deutsche Orchideen Gesellschaft (DOG). For many years 20 – 30 assorted members and friends have travelled to Germany to put on an exhibit at one or other of the DOG Congresses in the spring and, if BOC-qualified, to take part in both the stand judging and in the individual plant judging. (Currently, we have three BOC-qualified judges on our membership list). Ruth Brown and Julie Binks were each awarded Honorary Membership of the DOG at the World Orchid Congress in Glasgow in 1993.
The Sheffield and District Orchid Society has exhibited at every BOC Congress so far and has itself organised two BOC Congresses: the first in 1982 and the second in 1996. At the latter, we were pleased to welcome Mr Wong Siew Hong from Singapore who brought cut orchid flowers to put on a display on behalf of the Orchid Society of South East Asia (OSSEA).
Other members of the Society now include John Garner, who is also currently Treasurer of the British Paphiopedilum Society, (Julie Binks was President of the BPS for several years), There are many others who are well known growers and exhibitors of orchids.
The Society is continuing in its active role in the orchid world, exhibiting at Orchid Society shows across the north of England, supporting BOC Congresses, and more recently at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. Future prospects are encouraging.